... a revelation. It showcases the range of Krugman’s intellect and his gift for clear, accessible writing. He neatly mixes pop cultural references and economic data ... But Krugman’s real superpower may be his longevity. He began contributing to the Times in 2000, and he has chronicled numerous economic policies and proposals that have been promoted or propped up by zombie claims ... Taken together, all these arguments with zombies reveal much about the electorate and the Republican Party of today ... Krugman doesn’t shy from calling out the mean-spiritedness that underlies much of the conservative agenda ... I would have loved more insight into his thinking on the flavor of free trade that has become commonplace among liberal elites in business, even as the rise of populists on the left and the right has exposed the shortcomings of globalization ... Krugman’s critics on the right will surely take issue with his writings on Trump’s economic policies by pointing to record-high stock prices and the 11-year expansion of the U.S. gross domestic product. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to quibble with Krugman’s underlying message that the current system is hurting the poor to the benefit of the rich and corporations.
All through the book, the reader wonders how so talented and fortunate an author came to develop such a furious and bitter voice. What drives a dazzling academic—the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in economics, no less—to turn his New York Times column into an undiscriminating guillotine for conservative foes? Krugman is substantively correct on just about every topic he addresses. He writes amusingly and fluently. His combination of analytic brilliance and linguistic facility recalls Milton Friedman or John Maynard Keynes. But Krugman can also sound like a cross between a bloodthirsty Robespierre and a rebarbative GIF ... Krugman’s blunt approach has powerful attractions. For one thing, it delights his liberal readers, and may inspire some of them to advocate for better policy. For another, his willingness to ascribe motive may reveal the real drivers of political struggles ... But the Krugmanite approach also has drawbacks. By branding Republicans as 'bad people,' he reduces the chances of swaying them. By sweeping all Republicans into the same baske, Krugman may obscure more of reality than he manages to expose ... If a large chunk of the 21st-century Republican Party is guilty of disparaging the truth, the flip side is that Krugman himself has lost confidence in the efficacy of the truth, at least in forging policy consensus. This is a dispiriting conclusion, especially for a truth-seeking professor ... Krugman is suffering from an especially public case of what’s come to be known as Trump Derangement Syndrome. Appalled by the Republican Party’s most bigoted leaders, he has allowed himself to believe that nearly all Republicans are corrupt and evil, and therefore that reasoned argument is futile ... If you accept that almost all conservatives are impervious to reason, you will celebrate Krugman’s writings for laying bare reality. But the evidence from the Pew surveys counsels more charity and caution. Most people cannot be pigeonholed as purely good or purely evil. Their motives are mixed, confused, and mutable ... For the sake of our democracy, a supremely gifted commentator should at least try to unite citizens around common understandings. Merely demonizing adversaries is the sort of thing that Trump does.
Reading this book will help you appreciate that, despite many trends in the opposite direction, we live in a world where the values of the Enlightenment still exist ... Readers of Krugman’s work over recent decades will have seen most of this book before. Taken together, however, the book’s wide-ranging essays provide an astute picture of what has gone wrong in the United States. While Krugman blames most of these trends on the unholy alliance of big money and Republican politics, he fails to address the vulnerabilities in the American psyche, education, and culture that have led four out of ten voters to endorse Trumpism. The book has six pages on Fox News but could have offered more on the shaping of truly fake news.